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One of the Myths about the Washington Redskins is that they're a great Rushing team. They're not. Oh, they'll grind you, if you show you're having trouble stopping the run. But when they made their move in '89, winning their last five games, they averaged 311 yards in the air, more than any other team over that span.
Myth No. 2: The Skins are still a true one-back offensive team. Well, they were 5-6 using one back and two tight ends last year, and 5-0 after they switched to three wideouts and opened it up. Guess which alignment they'll rely on this season?
Myth No. 3: Washington's defense runs out of steam. Try this one: In their last seven games of '89, the Redskins allowed a total of 10 second-half points—a touchdown to San Diego, a field goal to Atlanta.
The message here is that assistant head coach Richie Petitbon is a heck of a defensive coach and that coach Joe Gibbs can switch gears and put up a big-league air attack when he has to. Gibbs has a way with quarterbacks. Doug Williams had his best years under Gibbs. Jay Schroeder has done nothing since being traded to the Raiders. Now Mark Rypien is the man.
And what a nice group of receivers Rypien has to throw to. Each of the three wideouts—Art Monk, Ricky Sanders and Gary Clark—had a 1,000-yard season in '89. The last time three pass catchers from the same team had more than 1,000 yards in a season was 1980, when Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson and Kellen Winslow did it for San Diego. The Chargers' offensive coordinator at the time? Gibbs.
Washington suffers from a case of the shorts on the offensive and defensive lines and injuries in the secondary. But I like the way the Skins finished in '89, and I think that will carry over. Their biggest hurdle may be a freak bit of scheduling. Over a five-week stretch in October and November, the Redskins face the Eagles twice and the Giants twice. Someone ought to investigate.
I'm not going to sit here and tell NEW YORK GIANTS coach Bill Parcells and coordinator Ron Erhardt how to run their offense. They were 12-4 last season doing things their way, and that way was to give the ball to 32-year-old O.J. Anderson 20 to 25 times a game, run him inside behind a massive, heavy-footed zone-blocking line and pass as needed. That produced some strange numbers indeed.
New York lived by the run but averaged only 3.4 yards per carry, second-worst in the NFC, and Anderson's 3.1 ranked him last in average among the top 47 ground gainers in the league. Rushing teams aren't supposed to give up a lot of sacks, because the defense is hesitant, but only five teams had a sack-to-pass ratio worse than the Giants' one sack for every 9.65 throws.
New York fans loved the Giants' powerhouse brand of football (did any team go for it and make it more often on fourth-and-one?), but they didn't like the pounding their quarterback, Phil Simms, took every week. Torn pectoral muscle, sprained ankle, broken bone in his right thumb—Simms was a wreck by season's end. Big, zone-blocking linemen are not the best pass blockers in this era of speed rushers and complex blitzing schemes.
You can look for more ball control this year. Rodney Hampton, the No. 1 draft pick, joins a mob of backs. Someday he'll be terrific. Little Dave Meggett is an excellent third-down possession receiver, just as tight end Mark Bavaro, who is coming along slowly after off-season knee surgery, was in the Super Bowl year.